Yogi hacks - share your best ideas and strategies

This is actually a serious topic. For those dedicated to a life of simplicity, have you learned any cool hacks to help you with the yogi lifestyle and practice?

Something that saves you time, energy, money?

A more efficient way to do something helpful to the meditative practice?

For example, I can cook oatmeal efficiently in a vaccum insulated water bottle with wide enough neck by pouring the boiling hot water in the bottle containing oatmeal, nuts, dry fruit, close the container, come back in 30-60min and have perfect oatmeal, in the most energy efficient way, and it works in camping mode.

Any cool pieces of equipment?

For example, I bought a wide brim hat on amazon with a mosquito net that protects your face and neck area, for about 2 US$, shipping included.

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I think Buddha has given few of them. Bahiya sutta is one.

This is one of my best hacks.

The idea occurred to me on a winter retreat in Nepal, sleeping sometimes in a tent, other times in a traditional stone built house that was about as cold inside as sleeping in a tent.

In the morning, temperatures could reach freezing point. You know this when you see frost on the ground.

Anyway, it’s really cold, when you wake up in the morning, you don’t really want to get out of your warm sleeping bag, walk a ways in the dark looking for an outhouse to pee.

So after doing that for a while, I thought there must be a better way. There is. I found an old water bottle, and started using that. Didn’t even have to unzip my sleeping bag all the way to do my business.

Back in the USA, I found another awesome application for the same hack. Say you have a drive a long distance, to a retreat center or monastery for example. I was once on one of these very long driving trips during a long stretch of driving, and needed to find a bathroom to pee. I happened to be in an unsavory neighborhood, the kind where residential doors and windows have bars on them, public bathrooms are locked, etc. I went into a restaurant and they refused to let me pee unless I bought something from the menu.

I did end up buying a beverage so I could get a key and pee in their bathroom. What I really wanted to do was say, “you know what, I’m not going buy a beverage, I’m going to pee right here on the floor unless you give me that key to the bathroom.”

Anway, lesson learned, I always keep a one litre empty plastic fruit juice bottle in my car. During a long drive to unfamiliar territory, if ever the need to pee arises, I will not be held hostage again. Ever.

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Well after 9 years of working, volunteering, and retreating in western dharma centers as well as spending several months in western and Asian monasteries I have a few hacks for being happy on retreat and getting samadhi quickly:

  1. Accept whatever accommodations you are offered. It will be fine.

  2. Be forthright about any physical limitations you have, but then accept any yogi job you are asked to do. It will be fine.

  3. Eat whatever is offered, when it is offered. Do not store food for later. If you won’t be able to digest something, don’t take it. Even if you completely miss a meal (unless you are diabetic) it will be totally fine. We are all incredibly well nourished in the west. It is not worth thinking about.

  4. If someone is bugging you, give them something or do something for them.

  5. Be grateful to everyone and for everything.

  6. Be as honest as you can be in interviews with teachers. I have found two worthwhile goals for talking with a teacher. One is just to feel seen and accepted for who I am and where I am. Honesty is required for that. The other is to get the best advice that is useful right now to my current state. Honesty is required for that too.

  7. Listen to your body, but don’t think too much about it. In other words, if your knees hurt, change how you sit, but don’t make a story about it.

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From decades of practicing hatha yoga, taiji quan, I’ve found I get much more efficient and better results from doing a combination of the two, also incorporating some basic western exercises like pull ups, pushups, jogging, bike riding.

So here’s the important hack insight #1: Rather than setting aside, 60, 90, or 120 minutes a day of doing all that exercise in one sitting, the results are much better when I stagger it, spread it out through out the day in 10, 15, 20 minute sessions. So in a sample 10 min session, I might do a little taiji to warm up, then a few minutes of stretching/yoga, them some more taiji and or western exercise.

important hack insight #2: develop S&S (sati and sampajano) so you’re clearly aware moment by moment , increasing your sensitivity to know where you’re physical problems are, what you need to do to fix it, where the point of diminishing returns is so you don’t spend too much time doing taiji when you really need more yoga and stretching for example. Without S&S, you’re not going to be able to apply the priority principle of knowing where your bottlenecks and weaknesses are to give extra time and attention, and those bottlenecks contrain your overall improvement.

The result of these two hacks is you get a much more targeted synergistic effect which yields much greater overall improvement in the long run, compared to simply setting aside only one 60min session a day. I would even argue that doing a very well constructed program of 90 min a day staggered out into 6 to 10 sessions delivers better results than spending 3 hours a day exercising spending 60 min each session. Now this is from the point of view of optimizing for the health needs of a meditator yogi of course. Someone training for war or the olympics would obviously need to train differently.